Founding member of The Orange Peels and Cerebral Corps, multi-instrumentalist Bob Vickers is no stranger to the world of arty pop music. On his second solo outing he gives us something a little more personal, a little deeper. It could be the year’s most perfect break-up album. Or is it a mid-life crisis record? Find out March 9 when Mystery Lawn Music releases The Incredible Vickers Brothers: Torch Songs for Swingers.
When you’ve played in as many bands and performed as many different styles of music as California native Vickers has, there’s bound to be some confusion along the way. Somewhere down the line he became ‘Rob’ to some and ‘Bob’ to others. This helped contribute to a musical split-personality which allowed him to shape-shift as a composer, eventually deciding to release a solo album as “The Incredible Vickers Brothers.”
Released by the Bus Stop Label in 2008, “Gallimaufry” allowed Vickers to create a multi-instrumentalist brother act that reveled in British flavored ‘60’s pop-rock while also conjuring a modern roots based Folk-Americana with stops at Surf City and the Brill Building along the way. The record garnered high praise from critics upon release but was met with near unanimous commercial apathy.
In the 10 years since the record’s release, life brought the big ‘D’ triumvirate of Death, Divorce and Depression resulting in a return to songwriting and recording. Now, nearly a full decade later, The Incredible Vickers Brothers return with “Torch Songs for Swingers” — a new collection of music addressing loss, longing, memory and mid-life crisis.
There’s a poetic logic to the Incredible Vickers Brothers, and “Torch Songs for Swingers” is a road map to that answer. Written and produced in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Northern California, where the Redwoods dominate local skylines, the album is a classic break-up or even mid-life crisis escape. Orange Peels front man Allen Clapp’s production is an uninterrupted complement to Vickers’ flow. The classic “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy remembers girl” storylines are drenched in relatable and familiar musical roots.
Lead track and first single “Mirrors” pulses with luscious pop guitar hooks, a rock-steady rhythm section, and sticky sweet vocal harmonies rounding out the Union Jack trifecta of sound. Vickers takes a soul-searching look into a personal mirror, and his lyrics reflect every angle. He deals with the same universal struggles that many face at different points in their life, singing, “Mirror, mirror might have known / this reflection won’t let me alone. You’ve shown all my cracks and creases / I should just smash you to pieces.” Seamlessly woven between the British Invasion is a brute honestly that resonates with a self-edit switch reminding people to treat others with respect.
“In Memory” captures the aftermath of a breakup like a cool drink tinged with a splash of bitterness. Through the soft-focus lens of 20-20 hindsight, a dreamy smooth saxophone, and vintage 1978 drum machine, the melody dances around a classic Bossa nova style with a velvet backdrop. “Faded Away” and “Walkabout” offer more juxtaposed rock and reflection while adding to the sonic pallet with dreamy 70s synths and stacked vocal harmonies.
The album closes on a somber note with piano and pedal steel gracing a surrealist tale of a car crash that the singer can’t seem to steer away from. As he draws closer verse by verse, the fate of the protagonist becomes ever clearer until he realizes his collision with destiny isn’t something he can avoid. “Wreck Up Ahead” is devastatingly gorgeous, and deftly crafted. It’s a fitting endnote to a collection of songs that navigate a mid-life reckoning.
Even the cover art, by Boulder Creek painter Jennifer Wildermuth Reyes, seems to indicate a kind of singular perseverance—a challenge to rage against the dying of the light. And that’s the feeling the listener is ultimately left with: a life-affirming statement of hope. Carrying on when it would be easier to give up.
“Torch Songs for Swingers” is available on limited-release CD and digital formats on March 9, 2018. Pre-orders are available now at Bandcamp.